Rudd Government Confronts the Rural Health Challenge

The Australian Government is improving health workforce shortages in rural and remote areas with a package of reforms that includes ‘the more remote you go, the greater the reward’ incentives.

Page last updated: 12 May 2009

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12 May 2009

Rural and remote workforce shortages will be improved under a $134.4 million package announced today by the Minister for Health and Ageing.

The package responds to the Government’s audit of health workforce in rural and regional Australia that found that:

  • the current supply of health professionals was not sufficient to meet the community’s needs; and
  • the previous Government relied on an out-of-date classification system using population data from 1991.
This reform package retargets incentives to ensure that ‘the more remote you go, the greater the reward’ to encourage doctors to work in some of Australia’s most isolated rural and remote communities – and to help keep them there.

For example, under the new system, a doctor relocating from a major city to a regional centre will receive a $15,000 grant. A doctor relocating to a very remote area would receive $120,000.

Under reforms to be introduced by the Rudd Government, almost 500 communities around Australia will become eligible for rural incentive payments for the first time.

Retention payments will also be heavily geared to the level of remoteness. Many of the more than 260 doctors who practise in the most remote locations will potentially have their maximum retention incentives increased from $25,000 per year to $47,000 per year.

More than 2,400 rural doctors will now become eligible for the first time for grant payments to remain in rural and remote areas.

Additional reforms will ensure that:
  • more than 3,600 overseas trained doctors with restrictions on where they can practise will be able to discharge their obligations sooner if they work in rural and remote communities;
  • Under the HECS Reimbursement Scheme, the rate of reimbursement of HECS payments will be adjusted to give more credit according to the remoteness of the location;
  • Locum relief will be available to doctors working in difficult locations with more than 400 locum placements planned to enable rural GPs to take a holiday or undertake further education and training; and
  • More than 150 urban doctors can be up-skilled in exchange for undertaking four-week locum placements in rural and remote communities.
In contrast to the previous Government’s ad hoc, antiquated approach, the Rudd Government is introducing a new classification system which reflects how Australia’s population and demographic make-up has changed over time.

From 1 July 2009, the outdated and flawed Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) system will be replaced by the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) system.

The ASGC-RA has been developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, uses 2006 Census data, and is widely used by Commonwealth and state agencies. Most importantly, moving to the ASGC-RA will improve incentives for attracting health services to areas of genuine need.

The new classification system will be phased in from July 2009.

The Rudd Government is also investing in three mental health programs specifically targeted to meet the needs of rural and remote communities:
  • $6.7 million to extend the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote areas Program;
  • $5.2 million to extend mental health support for drought affected communities; and
  • a total of $7.5 million, comprising $4.5 million in 2008-09 and $3 million in 2009-10 for additional psychological support for communities affected by the Victorian bushfires.
The Rudd Government will also invest immediately $13.9 million on 40 rural and regional projects.

Each of these projects aims to improve access to essential health infrastructure and equipment for rural and remote communities.

These announcements signal the Rudd Government’s ongoing determination to ensure people get appropriate and timely health care when and where they need it.

An announcement about the outcomes of Round Two of the National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program will be made in the near future.

For all inquiries please contact the Minister's office – 02 6277 7220

Rural Communities to Benefit From Nation-Building Health Package

StateLocationOrganisationProject Funding
NTAlyangula, Groote EylandtAnindilyakwa Land CouncilBuild accommodation for junior doctors and medical students.$496,000
VicAraratArarat Medical CentreExtension of existing building to include additional consulting rooms, waiting area, meeting rooms and teaching area.$500,000
SABeachportWattle Range CouncilCapital works to build a new medical centre. $500,000
VicBeechworthBeechworth SurgeryReplacement and upgrade of the computer system and hardware, in line with recommended standards.$50,000
WABoddingtonShire of BoddingtonCapital works to construct and fit out a new allied health medical centre.$500,000
NSWBombalaBombala CouncilCapital works to construct a house in Bombala for use by a GP.$260,000
WABroomeKimberley Aboriginal Medical Services CouncilEstablish a multi-purpose clinic on the Dakas St Medical Centre site.$500,000
QldCairnsCairns Private HospitalEstablish Interventional Cardiology services and ICU through necessary building works (funded by the hospital) and equipment purchase.$131,632
VicCamperdownCamperdown Clinic TrustUndertake extensions to the current medical clinic through the addition of three consulting rooms, a training room and appropriate staff amenities. Also includes the purchase of appropriate clinical and diagnostic and procedural equipment.$432,987
QldCharlevilleMurweh Shire CouncilConvert, refurbish and refit existing building into a private dental practice and oral health centre.$398,200
VicCharltonCharlton MedicalRefurbishment of medical practice facility and equipment to attract and maintain suitably qualified medical and nursing personnel, registrar and medical students.$218,407
QldChinchillaChinchilla Medical PracticeReplace ageing diagnostic imaging equipment with new up-to-date quality equipment.$227,779
VicCobramMoira Shire CouncilCapital works to construct a purpose-built facility to provide integrated primary care including medical, dental and health professional services to the region. $500,000
SACumminsDistrict Council of Lower Eyre PeninsulaCapital works to extend an existing building to include additional consulting rooms, waiting area, meeting rooms and teaching area. $130,000
NTDhalinbuyLaynhapuy Homelands Association IncBuild a facility in which health care can be delivered in a clinically and culturally appropriate manner.$295,441
WADonnybrookShire of Donnybrook-BalingupCapital works to construct a new medical facility that will cater for a general medical practice, pathology, specialised nurse treatment, allied health and the training of rural medical staff.$500,000
NSWDubboDubbo Private HospitalPurchase urology and imaging equipment and develop a plan that can be implemented over time, which will benefit the people of Dubbo.$155,205
NSWForbesForbes Shire CouncilCapital works to construct a walk-in walk-out medical service in Forbes.$500,000
NSWForbesJoma Consulting Services Pty LtdRenovation of existing building and the construction of an annex building for the provision of professional consulting rooms.$498,388
NSWGilgandraGilgandra Shire CouncilCapital works to build a private GP clinic in the grounds of the Gilgandra MPS. $240,000
NSWGunnedahBarwon Division of General Practice LtdDesign a one-stop integrated primary health care facility. The building will include capacity for training, retaining and developing medical and allied health services.$500,000
QldInglewoodGoondiwindi Regional CouncilCapital works to establish a new medical centre.$500,000
VicInglewoodLoddon Shire CouncilCapital works to construct accommodation to attract another GP to the area.$390,000
WAKalgoorlieEastern Goldfields Medical Div of GP (Goldfields Esperance GP Network)Purchase of a vehicle for the mobile medical team and provide early detection and treatment for people with diabetes.$470,000
VicKerangFitzroy Street Medical ClinicBuild and equip four new consulting rooms for practice use and training of medical students and GP registrars.$261,990
VicMerinoGlenelg Shire CouncilCapital works to enable the redevelopment of the Bush Nursing Centre. $500,000
VicMurchisonGoulburn Valley Division of General PracticeCapital works to refurbish facilities, including an upgrade of the waiting and reception area and the records and consultation area. $499,059
VicNathaliaNathalia Medical ClinicEquip the new medical clinic with updated medical equipment that will remain part of the medical clinic.$115,100
QldNeboIsaac Regional Council - Nebo Business UnitCapital works to construct a new medical centre practice facility.$454,545
WANorthamCentral Wheatbelt Division of General Practice LtdCapital works to support counselling and Allied Health Services. $500,000
VicOuyenMallee Division of General Practice Capital works to extend an existing building to include a dental sterilisation facility.$57,272
SAPadthwayTatiara District CouncilCapital works for an extension to the indoor sporting facility to include a new medical centre. $86,292
QldRomaMaranoa Medical CentreRefurbishment to accommodate a new consulting room and the purchase of medical equipment. $55,389
NSWRylstoneMid-West Regional CouncilCapital works to purchase, as appropriate, residential property in the area that would be used to attract and retain GPs and other health professionals.$300,000
NSWSconeUpper Hunter Shire CouncilCapital works to increase capacity of Scone Medical Practice to accommodate multidisciplinary health services, especially allied health services in the community. $500,000
TasScottsdaleDivision of General Practice Northern Tasmania IncCapital works to construct a multidisciplinary primary care centre in the rural north eastern town of Scottsdale.$500,000
SATanundaTanunda Medical Centre Refurbishment of building to accommodate a study area, meeting area, video-conferencing room and staff amenities.$102,748
NSWTareeIntalink Therapy SolutionsExpand allied health services to include paediatric psychology, speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.$261,176
SATumby BayDistrict Council of Tumby BayCapital works to enhance the existing medical practice and allied health services that will increase the range of health services available through visiting specialists. $500,000
NSWUrbenvilleTenterfield Shire CouncilCapital works to renovate and equip the existing Urbenville Medical Practice. $295,455